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Obama Debt Speech George Washington University April, 13 2011

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Author Topic: Obama Debt Speech George Washington University April, 13 2011  (Read 382 times)
Jade Hellene
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« Reply #15 on: April 19, 2011, 11:57:09 pm »

The abundance of secrecy left the impression that White House officials came up with the idea for Obama’s speech at the eleventh hour in an effort to divert attention away from the debate raging in Congress. “They were scrambling to change the subject from the budget debacle and this was what they latched on to,” said the aide.

Having failed to effectively brief members of Congress on the details of his plan, few lawmakers could therefore amplify the president's message.

Administration officials, for their part, steadfastly refute the idea that they simply "winged" it.

According to one Obama aide, the president and his team decided in December that he would have to “lay out a comprehensive plan” for deficit reduction “after the FY2011 funding debate had completed.”

Another White House official described the planning as even more specific, asserting, “Its been on the schedule for the Wednesday after the [continuing resolution avoiding a government shut down] was resolved for months now.” Because a vote on the continuing resolution was delayed on several occasions, the date of the speech remained, consistently, in flux.

According to these individuals, the President’s staff had been considering university locations near or in Washington, D.C. for venue well before the speech was announced, with an eye toward delivering subsequent deficit-focused addresses outside the nation's capital the following week.

Michelle Sherrard, a spokesman for George Washington University, did not have a specific date for when the administration first contacted the university. She noted only that "The White House and GW regularly communicate about the possibility of hosting upcoming events on campus."

One administration aide defended congressional outreach, adding, “Throughout this process the President’s team has been in touch with leaders on the Hill, including both the Gang of Six [Senators meeting on their own deficit proposal] and Congressman [Paul] Ryan, and other stakeholders like the deficit commission chairs.”

“In touch,” however, remains an inherently subjective phrase. As late as the Tuesday night before the speech was delivered, one extremely close White House ally professed to not having a clue about what would be said. “I don't think they have briefed anyone and I am not sure the speech is done!”

In fact, the speech wasn’t done. According to an administration aide, “the president worked until late in the night Tuesday, and put final touches on the speech on Wednesday morning.”

Why did it take so long to finalize the details on a speech planned months in advance?

For one, various areas of policy disagreement within the White House remained unresolved. In particular, officials familiar with the discussions say, Obama's economic advisers warned against calling for a final balance of three dollars in spending reductions for every dollar generated in additional tax revenue, arguing the ratio was too explicit.

Medicare reform sparked another element of disagreement. In his speech, the president proposed strengthening the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a group tasked with finding excessive and unnecessary spending within the system. Several aides wanted him to further outline specific ways to empower Medicare to negotiate over drug prices and medical procedures.

In the end, Obama kept the speech broad, leaving Democrats officials on the Hill largely pleased.

Several members of Congress also expressed agitation with the timing.

Obama’s speech came after Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) unveiled his own budget plan, giving his own remarks the veneer of a presidential response rather than executive leadership.

Moreover, by calling for additional talks on deficit reform, the president miffed lawmakers either working on or invested in the Gang of Six talks currently ongoing.

“The fact that the president has come out with his vision should be a positive reinforcement, another indication that this is important work that needs to be done,” Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Monday in response to complaints Obama stepped into Gang of Six territory. “And the fact that the President built his vision by borrowing in many ways from the recommendations of the bipartisan commission on which a number of members of that Senate group sat… gives a good sign, a good indication, of the fact that there is a building consensus around the way to approach this problem. So he thinks it’s very complementary to the process.”

But many Democrats don't want "complementary." The Gang of Six already gives progressives angina, with the Democratic members of the group -- including Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) -- openly supporting elements of Social Security reform and even extending the Bush tax cuts. Should the president end up complementing or even embracing their approach, the worry goes, no progressive counterpoint to Ryan's proposal will emerge. Instead, the distance between the Gang of Six and the Republican alternative will become the “compromise.”

The White House has been noticeably tight-lipped about its thoughts on Gang of Six conversations, perhaps because scarce information exists as to what, exactly, the lawmakers are discussing. But signs of mounting concern permeate both on and off the Hill.

When Vice President Joe Biden hosts a deficit reduction meeting with members of Congress at the Blair House on May 5, no Democratic lawmakers from the Gang of Six will be present. Instead, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is sending Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Appropriations Committee Chairman Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii). Gang of Six member and Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), one Democratic Senate aide relayed, was more than “irked” by his absence from the talks.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2011, 12:01:17 am by Jade Hellene » Report Spam   Logged

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